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Epic v. Apple: Judge Rules Apple Must Allow Developers to Direct App Users to Outside Payment Options

A judge has finally ruled in the Epic vs. Apple lawsuit, issuing an injunction in Epic's favor that forces Apple to permit developers on its platform to link to outside payment options within their apps.

The injunction states that Apple is "permanently restrained and enjoined from prohibiting developers from (i) including in their apps and their metadata buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms, in addition to In-App Purchasing and (ii) communicating with customers through points of contact obtained voluntarily from customers through account registration within the app."

This ruling favors Epic, which brought the suit to Apple following Apple's removal of Fortnite from its App Store last year after Epic incorporated the ability to skirt Apple's payment system, thus avoiding Apple's 30% platform fee.

The court's final order took issue with both parties' definitions of their "relevant markets," saying that the market the two were fighting over was neither Apple's own internal systems (as Epic said), nor all of gaming (as Apple claimed), but rather "digital mobile gaming transactions." Given that market, the court declared it "cannot ultimately conclude that Apple is a monopolist under either federal or state antitrust laws."

But nonetheless, the court stated that Apple's conduct was "anticompetitive," hence the injunction. The court stated it believes the injunction will "increase competition, increase transparency, increase consumer choice and information while preserving Apple’s iOS ecosystem which has procompetitive justifications."

However, Apple did counter-sue Epic for breach of contract, and the judge ruled in favor of Apple on this point. The court has ordered Epic to pay out 30% of the $12,167,719 in revenue Epic collected from users in the Fortnite app on iOS through Direct Payment between August and October 2020, plus further damages. In total, Epic will pay Apple at least $3.6 million.

This is doubtless not the end of the fight, as either party can still escalate the issue to a higher court if they are dissatisfied. Furthermore, this ruling comes in tandem with proposed legislation that would solidify the ability for developers to use their own payment systems, as well as continued pushback on Apple from other directions on its restrictive walled garden. A similar ban on major platforms preventing developers from using outside payment was recently put into effect in South Korea.

Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.

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